Is Jeremy Lin a fluke?

Nate Silver says no.  I say that in Mike D’Antoni’s offensive schemes a lot of point guards reap more than the statistics they would pick up on other teams and from other offenses, and since the D’Antoni scheme is not very generalizable, or capable of winning a championship, the “other team” metrics are more or less the correct ones.  Who else thinks the Knicks can continue to steamroll through victories like this, with or without their two “stars”? (ZMPers I call them.)  I say he’s been toasting a number of teams that don’t have real defense against good attacking point guards, such as Washington and the Lakers.  I think he will be very good but maybe someone like Fat Lever or Kenny Smith is the right comparison.  That’s stillgood.  In the playoffs, with a real defender on him, I suspect he is just another good player.  He was by the way an economic major at Harvard, let’s ask Mankiw.

Addendum: Via Ben Casnocha, here is Metta to Lin.


We'll see, can't make a judgement based on four games.....let's see some consistency and on top of that how he responds to a double team.

It's hard to double a guard against di'antoni's offense. The guy doubling will be a power forward or a center.

In two weeks Carmelo will come back, receive his first pass from Lin, and then the entire Knicks' offense will collapse upon Anthony like a dying star.

I'm just enjoying the Linsanity while it lasts.

Bill James talked about something back in the 1980s, I believe it was something like game significance. His example was a game from Roger Clemens's rookie season in which he struck out a high number of batters while not walking anyone. James noted that this was unusual, and that only great pitchers did it. Even though we had little to judge Clemens on at that point, he did something that indicated he was a great pitcher.

Was last night's game something like that for Lin? How many ordinary guards ever scored 38 points in a game?

During the Sixers dreadful days between the Barkley and Iverson eras, I watched both Dana Barros and Willie Burton put up 50+ points.

Mike James has scored 38+ multiple times including at least twice in one season. he also had a 4-game 30+ point scoring streak.

And there's the sloppy play of the delayed start to the season.

Lin says his personal game is unique. What happens when teams get a book on his game, and know better how to defend him. And interfere with his assist play.

But loving it for now.

Mankiw needs to, uh, post on Lin.

One of my commenters suggested that the funny thing about Lin is that he needs to be the Man on his team. Being Chinese, the stereotype assumption was that he might, if he were lucky, be a role player, a spot contributor, etc. Instead, his skill set is such that he needs to dominate offensively, like Nate Archibald in 1973. So, it took a team in ruins, without its 2 biggest stars over the last week, to give him a chance to show what he can do.

"it took a team in ruins, without its 2 biggest stars over the last week, to give him a chance to show what he can do."

It was a team in ruins with its two biggest stars, and in no small part because of them. What makes a "star" in the NBA -- and gets the max contract -- is significantly different from what wins games. (See: Marbury, Stephon, et. al.)

Lin held his own against John Wall - but the Wizards are a horrible team. The Knicks are at Chicago on March 12. I will reserve judgment until he faces Derrick Rose.

When the Bulls played the Wizards their third string PG went 25-8-8. They're really bad.

It's too early to rush to judgement (although I'm anxious to see what Mankiw has to say about it), but I gotta tell ya...the guy does pass the eye test. Can't crown him yet, but I think he is far more talented than some of the sports guys who are saying he's a fluke give him credit for (probably the Chinese stereotype at play), and he definitely knows how to play within D'Antoni's system so who knows...they could turn this season around yet!

Interesting how, even if just "very good", his talented was overlooked by UCLA where he wanted to play, a few NBA teams, and I'm guessing the Knicks at the start of the season. How did the scout/player personnel network miss on him?

How did Wes Welker go undrafted?

Racial stereotypes play a moderate-sized role in sports, especially because there's no lobby for white and Asian players, the way there was a huge media push for three decades to get the share of black quarterbacks up to equal to the black share at other positions. (You'll recall when Rush Limbaugh was thrown off Monday Night Football in 2003 for mentioning the media effort.) That has died down in recent years as the evidence has become overwhelming that there aren't enough good NFL-style black quarterbacks -- only about as many as their share of the American population, but not of the NFL. On the other hand, nobody in the media cares about whether non-blacks are being overlooked at cornerback or running back due to racial bias.

It's okay for Asians to celebrate one of their co-racials making it in the NBA as a triumph for their race, but it's not okay for white people to celebrate, say, Dirk Nowitzki winning the Finals MVP as a comeback for white people in the NBA.

In that kind of ideological atmosphere, mistakes will be made.

It's interesting in that sports is one of the industries where the competition is on display and it is the product. This is probably a mechanism for rational bases for speculation leading to stories like Moneyball.

The baseball players who benefited from the Moneyball revolution tended, on average, to be non-Hispanic whites who didn't look all that athletic but didn't swing at bad pitches (which Latins long tended to do, although they've cut down in recent years). Nobody wants to talk about the racial impact of Bill James' work, but it's pretty obvious.

RE Lin's UCLA snub: UCLA's 2006 recruiting class featured two players, the only backcourt player being Russell Westbrook. I'm as impressed by Lin's week as anyone, but it's a huge stretch to say that he's as good of a player as Westbrook is now, and he certainly wasn't coming out of high school.

RE attributions of Lin's draft status to his race: It may be the case that people didn't take Lin as seriously as they should have because of his race. It's not at all clear, however, that this is what kept Lin from being drafted; he was seen coming out as an undersized tweener guard with average athleticism who never played on a large college stage. It's great that he's outperforming his projection, but it's not like he's the only guy to ever do so (John Starks, David Wesley, Avery Johnson, Darrell Armstrong, Wesley Matthews, etc.). More broadly, I've never seen any evidence to indicate that non-black basketball players outperform their draft status's relative to their counterparts. Taking an extremely anecdotal view of the last decade, it seems as though a disproportionate number of high-level busts have actually been non-black (Adam Morrison, Darko Milicic, Nikolo Tskitishvili, Joe Alexander, Yi Jianlian). If anything, given marketing motivations, it makes a lot more sense to me that non-black players would be given relatively greater opportunity to play.

> it seems as though a disproportionate number of high-level busts have actually been non-black

It seems more like tall players are busts most often,a s three of those are 7'

> If anything, given marketing motivations, it makes a lot more sense to me that non-black players would be given relatively greater opportunity to play.

Jason Sehorn, a great cornerback, was going to have to be a safety if you read pre-draft scouting reports, one assumes because he was white. The more sport uses the eye test as a measure, the more not being what is expected will impact a non-racially stereotypical player's ability to get a look in. I mean, to the eye, Lin looks nothing like an average NBA PG.

To be clear, this is all US based. Soccer, with leagues that scale up and down, e.g. the difference between Holland and England, the premier league and the lower divisions ) is close to linear, the chances to get noticed are significantly higher than the US. College sport and the pro ranks share little in terms of style, and there are no second chance leagues, and no incentive for pro-teams to develop players, as there are no transfer fees.

Time will tell, but as a Knicks fan I sure hope the Linsanity stays.

I watched the Knicks three weeks ago against the Nuggets. They were a pathetic excuse for a team. The best thing that has happened to them the last week is the absence of Anthony, and probably Stoudemire, too.

To become "just another good player" would still be pretty amazing for an undrafted free agent.

I guess you'd say he's more of a tuna than a fluke.

Well played.

"In the playoffs, with a real defender on him, I suspect he is just another good player."

For the Knicks at PG this is an historic improvement. Don't slight it.

I remember when Tom Gugliotta had 39 points, 16 rebounds against Karl Malone, as a very young player. I was there. Doug Overton had some good games too, as did Michael Adams.

Gugliotta had a fine career, 13 years in the NBA, once an All-Star, twice averaged over 20 ppg, made $80 million.

Yes, he was a good player. Kenny Smith was a good player too.

Not to Steve he wasn't. Black players are stereotypically good at basketball, so they don't get any credit from his sorry racist ass.

I think Lin = Kenny Smith is a pretty apt description of his ceiling, and that's a nice career if that's what he ends up with.

We are talking about basketball. Have you played? If so, then you realize what a huge difference one inch of height can make and probably what big difference slight athletic advantages can have on results. It's even pointless to ponder these things. One of the themes of the "Moneyball meme" is you can only trust results.

Here's a blog post from 2 years ago before the 2010 NBA draft from a "Moneyball" style b-ball statistician that predicted Lin might do pretty well:

"Any team looking to find a starting PG in the 2010 NBA draft had best win the lottery and get the top pick. A year after the legendary PG draft of 2009, the pickings for playmakers are going to be thin. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a player or two who surprise the experts though.

The best candidate to pull off such a surprise might be Harvard’s Jeremy Lin. The reason is two numbers Lin posted, 2-point FG pct and RSB40. Lin was at .598 and 9.7. This is impressive on both counts. These numbers show NBA athleticism better than any other, because a high score in both shows dominance at the college level on both ends of the court."

Nice find.

I say that in Mike D’Antoni’s offensive schemes a lot of point guards reap more than the statistics they would pick up on other teams and from other offenses
I guess that's why Steve Nash's individual stats have been down so much since D'Antoni left. Oh wait....

I'd worry more about the fact that on a bad team, someone has to score, so it's hard to know how good someone in such a situation is. On the other hand, the Bobcats tell against the argument that on a bad team, someone has to score, or rebound, or do anything else.

...the D’Antoni scheme is not very generalizable, or capable of winning a championship...

D'Antoni's Phoenix Suns were the best team in the 2007 playoffs. They probably would have gone on to win the championship if the NBA hadn't suspended Stoudemire and Diaw for game 5 of the Spurs series.

that ruling was about as bad as the tuck rule

Yes the whole thing is preposterous, esp coming from someone with statistical training. FYI the current Knicks have a slower pace and better Def Rating then the 2009 Lakers (among other titlists).

D'Antoni's system is not ideal for most lineups, is not widely used and has easy to criticize facets. However it's also had undeniable success and if you can win 60+ games with a system you can win 16 more.

He looked a little more ordinary tonight, 1-13 in the second half. Still, they beat the Wolves, and might be a real threat to make it to the playoffs where MIA or CHI will crush them in the first round.

Still a lot of games left, if the 2 stars come back and Lin manages to stay useful with them back, New York should do better than 7th or 8th seed.

But yes the Eastern Finals will most certainly be Miami vs Chicago again. For the right to play the Thunder in the Finals.

Robert Wenzel said it best: I hope he makes it in the NBA. We don't need any more Harvard elitist economists.

Of course, Jeremy Lin is for real. Wasn't Ryan FitzPatrick the MVP of last week's Bills-Lions Super Bowl?

Lin clearly had some good moves back at Harvard. Start at 1:18 and check out the shot he makes:!

" since the D’Antoni scheme is not very generalizable, or capable of winning a championship"

How exactly did you come by this conclusion? Is it from the huge sample of seasons where D'Antoni had championship-caliber rosters and yet failed to win?

I think that Tyler Cowen is wrong on this one. I suspect he hasn't watched enough basketball. Actually watching the games is highly informative, it's not like baseball where the stats sheet is a sufficient statistic. The basketball stats are in their infancy, so watching the games adds to understanding. Predictions, in turn, benefit from understanding.

In baseball, you sometimes get pitchers do well for a couple of games and then the offence figures them out. That doesn't really happen in the NBA or basketball. I challenge you to find any NBA player that has scored more than Jeremy Lin in his first four starts and that hasn't become a star. (It's a trick question. Nobody has ever scored as much as Lin over first four starts. The top for are 1. Jeremy Lin 109. 2. Allan Iverson 100. 3. Shaquille O'Neal 100. 4. Michael Jordan 99.)

I think the college and NBA coaching staff looks pretty bad at this point. You had the best high school point guard from California go without Division I scholarship offers. Then when he played at Harvard, UConn and Syracuse coaching staff learned that they had screwed up and that Lin was a special player. Ask them, or go read what they said. I had an employee who toyed with the idea of becoming a full time basketball scout and he told me in 2009 that Jeremy Lin will have a career in NBA. Despite all this, Lin goes undrafted and then, after outplaying the #1 draft pick in the summer league (, doesn't get playing time. Lin's success in NBA is not the amazing thing here, it's how clueless the coaching and scouting staff is in the NBA.

Actually, Cowen's position is not extreme. Got his prediction confused on my screen with some of the other stuff I am reading at the same time. Scratch the first paragraph of my previous comment. The last two still stand.

Dantoni had Steve Nash in Phoenix. Two MVPs over Kobe and other guards. I think Dantoni knows guards.

Check out this PR on Jeremy Lin and bet on his rank for this season!

13 assists, conservatively counted, today in 27 minutes. Seven Knickerbockers in double digits in scoring, including points from five gorgeous alley-oops. My observation: No mean reversion so far.

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